His mother inspired Goethe by making up stories as a child. In some ways this sparked the beginning of his career.
Goethe's father, as a man of power, sought for him to receive the best education possible. Goethe was provided a private teacher who lived with the Goethes. At the age of eight years, Goethe was able to read and write at elementary level in the German, French, Italian, Greek, and Latin languages. His childhood provided him with the independence and maturity that stayed with him throughout his intellectual life.
Goethe was inspired by literature, music, and poetry. It was a way for him to express his emotions and feelings, as he was only a child and did not know otherwise how to express them. At the early age of twelve, Goethe co-wrote a romantic novel, in which there were seven brothers, each of whom spoke a different language. Goethe was already influenced by his private teachers. Goethe became the hero of Frankfurt as his intellectual powers seemed to have no end. His father, however; was not in high spirits regarding his son, as he was fearful that the public would look more favorably upon his son, not himself.
In the middle of his teenage years, Goethe was sent off to the University of Leipsig, where he was to study the theory of law, at his father's request. Goethe did not favor logic and public speaking. He continued to pursue his studies, however; they focused primarily on sociological issues. Goethe set aside his studies and imagined that he was in love with a mistress three years older than himself. During the three years at the University of Leipsig, Goethe acted abnormal and wild compared to the life he led at home. At the end of his three years of study, Goethe came back to his home with a tumor on the neck and a hemorrhage in the lungs. It took Goethe merely one year to recover from his mistakes. During his year of recovery, Goethe became his true self once again, regaining his passion for the theatre and literature. As nature took its course, Goethe soon realized the importance of honesty, and realized that he was very fortunate to have survived both the physical dangers, as well as the mental blocks.
Using Bovenschen's ideas as a starting point, I examine the notion (whose defense I will briefly sketch before proceeding to a consideration f Werther) that Rousseau's concepts f both femininity and masculinity derive from the currency f the sublime and the beautiful, and that these ideas may serve to illuminate Goethe's text. Rather than beginning with Immanuel Kant, whose most important work on the sublime and beautiful (his Kritik der Urteilskraft) appeared after Werther's publication, (Kant 1-7) I will first turn to Edmund Burke to provide the principal outlines f this aesthetic, since his work preceded Goethe's by a generation. My interpretation f the gendered nature f this aesthetic is at the heart f my interpretation f Werther, a rich text which may bear the weight f many different readings, even those that were perhaps not intended by its illustrious author.
I contend that Die Leiden des jungen Werther may be read in a way that emphasizes the dramatic interplay f beauty and sublimity in the hero's mind. This dialectic is complex and subtle--never clear cut and formulaic, but fraught with an ambiguity that is a mark f Goethe's genius. The movement from the beautiful to the sublime is reflected in Werther's consciousness and projected onto nature, embodied in the transition from Homer to Ossian, and epitomized in Werther's relationship to Lotte. Ultimately, the move from the beautiful to the sublime suggests another facet f the much-disputed meaning f Werther's